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Oregon's Sex Guide for Teens: Written By Children, for Children

In 2009, something called the Oregon Youth Sexual Health Partnership was formed. The stated goal of the partnership was to develop the Youth Sexual Health (YSH) plan to address teen pregnancy prevention in a more holistic manner — shifting youth sexual health from a risk-focused paradigm to a youth-development model of sexual health and well-being.

So how is it that this partnership has produced the "Rational Inquirer," a guide to every sex question you can imagine (and many you can't) written by children, for children?

The table of contents of the "Rational Inquirer" includes such items as:

Exploring the safer sex buffet...................................................................................2

A fairy-tale first time.................................................................................................4

Masturbation at a glance.........................................................................................10

Plan ahead: Prevent unintended pregnancy...........................................................12

I claim the right to choose my ultimate gender......................................................15

Have you ever..........................................................................................................20

What’s it like to grow up in an open adoption?......................................................34

The infographic for the Safer Sex Buffet is a real eye-opener. It starts with the question, "Who doesn't love a buffet?" It has sections on condoms, testing for STIs, the PrEP method of avoiding HIV, lube, and a teeny tiny little graphic tucked away at the edge — Abstinence. It's written by Josh Farrar and Dano Beck, employees of the Oregon Health Plan in charge of sexual health services.

Many of these essays are written by teens. Though their names are already public in this state government document, I'm changing their names here because they're still children. Just a couple of samples:

John, 17, is a Sex, Etc. staff writer. John’s

articles were reprinted with permission from Sex,

Etc., a teen-written, sexual health magazine and

website published by Answer.

Megan is a junior at North Eugene High School. She loves music,

plays the flute and has been involved in two honor band

programs — one of her biggest passions. Megan likes

to write and read in her spare time. She has been

on the honor roll during most of high school and

loves learning. --- also loves Mexico’s culture,

language and freedom.

Andrew, 18, is a Sex, Etc. staff writer. Andrew’s article

was reprinted with permission from Sex, Etc., a

teen-written, sexual health magazine and website

published by Answer.

The essay on Fairy Tale sex is written by two teen girls. They address several myths about sex:

Fairy Tale #1: The first time will be soooooo romantic.

Fairy Tale #2: Sex will fix a broken relationship.

Fairy Tale #3: It will last for at least an hour.

Fairy Tale #4: You'll both reach climax simultaneously.

This essay concludes with quotes from other teens about their first time:

James, 17, of New Jersey, enjoyed his first time. “I

didn’t want my first time to be purely physical. When

I found the right girl, we talked about it for the week

leading up. My parents were out of town for the

night, and I picked up a few condoms earlier that day.

It only lasted four minutes, but I’ve never felt more

connected to a person. No regrets whatsoever.”

Eighteen-year-old Blythe of New Jersey shares what

her first time was like.

“I waited to have sex until I was ready and made

sure my girlfriend was also ready and consenting.

We loved each other at the time, so it was a very

average experience, felt amazing. It wasn’t too quick

or awkward at all. I think once you know you’re

ready, you don’t have to rush into anything.”

Now, mind you, it's not all bad. There are some very good pieces of advice in the "Rational Inquirer," especially revolving around the subjects of respectful relationships, consent, drunk sex and the like.

But how do gender issues, teens writing about their sex lives, minimizing abstinence as an option, treating sex like a buffet, and a two-page infographic on masturbation written by Planned Parenthood have any relevance to the original goal of reducing teen pregnancies and STIs? To answer that, we have to look at the history and development of the Oregon Youth Sexual Health Program.

Oregon has a long history of attempting to address the problem of teen pregnancy. From the 1980s through around 2005, a series of abstinence-only sex ed programs were funded using federal grants. The mission statement of the "Rational Inquirer" from 1996 reflects this:

  • Provide a continuum of services

that ranges from school- and community-based pregnancy prevention programs for teens who are not sexually active, to pregnancy prevention and and parenting education/support for teens already pregnant or parenting.

  • Give a clear and consistent message

from parents, schools, the media, and the community about the importance of responsible behaviors once sexual activity begins.

  • Provide all adolescents with comprehensive sexuality education

that teaches them communication skills to postpone sex until they are ready, and that provides them with information about reproductive health and contraception when needed.

  • Make contraceptives more accessible to teenagers.
  • Integrate reproductive health care into general health care services.
  • Prevent child physical and sexual abuse and neglect.

Quite an evolution from that to "I identify as a male-to-female (or male-to-feminine androgynous) transgender or genderqueer person in a male body." (p. 15, 2016 edition)

The Oregon Health Authority has tracked the results of the Youth Sexual Health Plan for the time period 2008-2014. Of course, in between all their social justice goals (e.g. "Collaborate with stakeholders to eliminate systemic social inequities related to employment, housing opportunities, education and poverty that intersect with youth sexual health" and "Increase the support for funding opportunities to conduct culturally-sensitive research and evaluation focused on identifying and addressing the needs and assets of diverse populations") they tout their program as an enormous success. In that time period, teen pregnancy rates have fallen by 33 percent, which they cite as proof.

However, as all good and most mediocre statisticians know, correlation is not causation. They speculate that increased use of implanted hormonal birth control devices is one cause, but they cannot back it up with proof. As I wrote here, many studies are starting to demonstrate that teen pregnancy rates fall as a result of decreased spending on public sex education and contraceptives. The Oregon Health Authority even tucks away a little fact at the end of their assessment report that undermines their own bragging:

In 2010 alone, Oregon taxpayers saved $110 million dollars from the steep decline in both teen

pregnancy and birth rates, which have been trending downward since 1990. Any decline in

teen pregnancy and birth rates reduces the taxpayer cost to fund public assistance programs that

provide medical care and other child welfare services. Declines in teen pregnancy can also offset

lost tax revenue and decreased spending power caused when childrearing prevents teen parents

from joining the workforce. [Emphasis added]

In other words, they have no way of proving whether current reductions in teen pregnancy rates are due to their program or are part of an overall, long-term societal trend.

By all means, though, let's keep the SJW drum circle going because it feels like these things should matter.